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In an effort to understand how organic chemicals might survive after a period in the vacuum of space and then violent re-entry through the atmosphere, scientists have uncovered some interesting results. Last year, the ESA/Russian Foton-M3 mission was launched to test the effects of microgravity on various biological samples.
But say if there is an easier (and cheaper) way to look for ET? Rather than sending hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of hardware to Mars to look for organic chemicals, why can't we analyse all the rocky samples littered across the globe that originated from space?
o summarize, the Science paper of McKay and co-workers leaves many unanswered question. As they forthrightly state, their paper is NOT PROOF OF LIFE ON MARS. Their paper presents evidence that, on its surface, is consistent with ancient life on Mars; McKay and co-workers believe that the evidence is more consistent with life on Mars than any other explanation or explanations. Almost all of their conclusions can be disputed and will likely be disputed.
From my perspective, their strongest conclusion is that ALH 84001 contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that formed on Mars. These PAH molecules may be related to martian micro-organisms, as McKay and co-workers suggest. The PAHs might also have formed without assistance from living organisms, in what might be called a prebiotic organic chemistry. Proof of a prebiotic organic chemistry system in Mars would be nearly as exciting as proof of life itself.
Allan H. Treiman, Lunar and Planetary Institute August 21, 1996